I’ve had the privilege of meeting a few people that I’d considered heroes. One thing I’ve learned time and again is that they are, for the most part, just normal humans whose work brought some degree of fame. Normal humans, making normal human mistakes, with normal human emotions and shortcomings.
If you’ve had the same experience, or if you can imagine having that experience, and you felt a sense of disappointment at having lost a hero, we are not the same. Learning that the people I look up to are just like me has demonstrated that I at least have the capability of doing some incredible stuff, just like them. When you yourself can be admired for your work by people who have not and will never meet you, remaining resigned to collecting heroes is just boring.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t initially disappointed. I think I got over it pretty quick, however. Anyway, enough about me.
There is a tendency to view your favorite famous people — celebrities — as infallible. You might look up to them for advice in their song lyrics, their interviews on prime time talk shows, and in their books. You might aim to emulate their daily routine in an attempt to garner whatever special powers that may bring. You may learn their political leanings and adopt them as your own, parroting them when the opportunity strikes.
We all do this to some extent. Clearly, people who have become mega-famous are doing something right. Adopting whatever lifestyle tips and quirks they incorporate into their daily rituals probably wouldn’t hurt — but it could help a lot if they’ve got the special sauce.
But we should resist it, at least the parts that involve thoughtlessly repeating famous people’s thoughts and behaviors. What I’m trying to say is this: vegan celebrities will let you down, because they’re normal people, and normal people are not perfect.
Remember that the vast majority of vegans do not remain so. 84% of vegans/vegetarians abandon their diet. Celebrities, while no doubt having the financial means to adopt virtually any diet out there regardless of expense, are still subject to many of the same forces that lead people to give up on veganism or vegetarianism. They’re people, and unfortunately when it comes to veganism, most people are a let down.
This doesn’t mean all celebrities will give up their veganism/vegetarianism, but something like 84% can be expected to. We still have folks like Joaquin Phoenix and Moby, but we’ve lost mega-celebs like Miley Cyrus, Ellen Degeneres, and Steve-O (allegedly). Even larger than the list of prominent previously longtime vegan celebs is the list of famous people that have dabbled in veganism but clearly aren’t all-in on the ethics. In other words, they’re doing it for health reasons, something we’ve cautioned against repeatedly. Breaking veganism — or a plant-based diet — is merely one “cheat meal” away for them.
I don’t know how many people really go vegan because their favorite celeb does. I don’t think it is as direct, one-to-one as that. More likely, people hear that some celebs they look up to are plant-based or fully vegan, and they gush about how they feel much more energized. Over time, after hearing a few of these accounts, people begin to have a more positive view of veganism and a plant-based lifestyle. They might try a vegan meal, read some articles, watch a documentary or two, then they’re all in. Although the celeb endorsement of veganism isn’t typically sufficient to sell someone on it, it’s a crucial first step. For many people, veganism carries a negative connotation, so promotion from one of their heroes can go a long way in reversing that, leading them to be more open to vegan propaganda.
But the damage done by celebs that go vegan only to later denounce it is likely hard to overstate. We vegans are used to hearing from people who have a friend of a friend who “went vegan and almost died.” When famous people describe such harrowing accounts, their reach is far more vast than that friend of a friend. Given people’s negative attitude towards vegans and veganism in general, a reversal from a celeb can be the nail in the coffin. That’s why it is particularly frustrating to hear the likes of Miley Cyrus, by all appearances one of the temporary vegan enthusiasts I described here, talk about needing omegas as if they are only found in fish. (Disclaimer: I have only read that one quote of hers about abandoning veganism because she needed omegas, and I’m not about to listen to four hours of Joe Rogan to find out if she mentioned trying an algae supplement.)
The takeaway here is that we have to stop looking up to celebrities for everything. They will let you down, they will say things that are simply incorrect, and they will fuck up majorly from time to time. And that is okay – they are human, and most humans are not vegan. Instead of sulking over losing another vegan celebrity, embrace any opportunity you may have to become a prominent vegan yourself.